Let me get this out of the way early. I am very new to fighting games. Like very, very new. I played a good amount of Smash Ultimate, even went to a local tournament once, but I was never like, y’know...in it. I regret to inform both you, and past me, that I am now, in fact, in it.
Guilty Gear Strive is a very easy game to learn. Its combos are, as far as anime fighters go, relatively simple. It isn’t particularly strict about inputs, and most of the characters have a pretty easily understood game plan. I am glad it was the first game I actually sat down to learn. However, it was not Strive that actually got me in, it was the revelation that playing on keyboard is not only viable, but actively good.
A normal fight stick has switches inside, corresponding to the four directions it can go: up, down, left, and right. They aren’t built to register unique angles. There’s no difference between a 45-degree angle and a 60-degree angle as far as the stick is concerned. As long as the switches are being pressed, the input is being sent. This means that games are built to read digital, switch-based inputs. What buttons are pressed corresponds to what the character does on screen.
Playing on keyboard, or the more common Hit Box, just translates those switches to your fingers instead of your arm and wrist. If you’ve ever played a platformer on PC, it’ll make sense to you immediately. Ring finger goes left, middle finger goes down, index finger goes right. You use your thumb on either hand to jump. You do the buttons like you would on any fightstick.
This doesn’t just make the keyboard an okay way to play, it gives you an active advantage over stick players. The input accuracy of a keyboard, and of your fingers, is way higher. Try typing using only arm and wrist movements and see how fast you can go and how much you fuck up. I promise you’ll understand what I mean. This is why plenty of pros have started switching to Hit Boxes, or generic “buttonboxes.” They look like normal fight sticks, but the stick has been replaced with those four movement buttons I mentioned earlier. Everyone who uses a Hit Box is a coward, unable to admit that they’re just using a big, fucked-up looking keyboard.
I, however, am a proud keyboard pervert. For those of you who are unconvinced, playing on keyboard totally removed all barriers to entry from Guilty Gear Strive that learning to play with stick would normally impose, and allowed me, a total beginner at fighting games, to climb to Floor 10 of Strive’s 11-floor ranking system. Turns out when you can focus on what the moves do instead of how to do them, it gets way easier to improve at fighting games.
Also my keyboard is cute! You can’t beat that!